The Obama administration was apparently warned and received word back in 2008 that Veterans Affairs hospitals were not reporting accurate wait times, ultimately leading to veterans waiting for extended periods of time for medical attention, which has now become the VA scandal.
According to reports by the Washington Times, who has obtained briefing materials thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, officials with the VA told President Obama and Vice President Biden’s “transition teams” immediately after Obama won the 2008 presidential election to not trust the reported wait times by the VA hospitals.
“This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care,” the officials wrote.
The briefing materials, obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act, make clear that the problems existed well before Mr. Obama took office, dating back at least to the Bush administration. But the materials raise questions about what actions the department took since 2009 to remedy the problems.
According to the Times, there was a recommendation made in the 2008 transition report by the VA inspector general which requested that an accuracy test on reported waiting times be conducted.
Such tests, the report noted, could prompt action if results reveal “questionable differences” between the dates shown in medical records and dates in the Veterans Health Administration’s scheduling system. It’s unclear whether that recommendation was adopted because VA officials have not responded to request for comment.
The scandal first came to light when most recently, a total of 40 possible deaths of veterans, who were waiting for medical care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care hospital, was exposed.
Then, a “secret list” was leaked and was allegedly part of a plan created by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to cover up the fact that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor.
Turns out that top management and personnel at the VA hospital in Phoenix knew about the hospital’s practice of making veterans wait extended periods of time and even defended it. According to Dr. Sam Foote, who just retired after 24 years with the VA system in Phoenix, the scheme was highly elaborate and top management went to great lengths to cover it up.
Just today, allegations came in the form of a whistleblower who told the Daily Beast that secret waiting lists, like in Phoenix, were kept secret that showed the actual waiting times for veterans in the state.
Last month, word broke that the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix kept a secret waiting list that allegedly led to dozens of preventable deaths. The VA’s inspector general was brought in to investigate the charges and hasn’t yet found any deaths in Phoenix linked to wait times, but his investigation is ongoing. Since then five other facilities have come under fire, leading to calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down. And now there’s Albuquerque’s. The evidence for this new secret list may be hard to track down, however.
“The ‘secret wait list’ for patient appointments is being either moved or was destroyed after what happened in Phoenix,” according to a doctor who works at the Albuquerque VA hospital and spoke exclusively with The Daily Beast. “Right now,” the doctor said, “there is an eight-month waiting list for patients to get ultrasounds of their hearts. Some patients have died before they got their studies. It is unknown why they died, some for cardiac reasons, some for other reasons.”
Last week, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and senate-hopeful said the VA scandal was another example of government-run healthcare facilities, saying “What the VA has allegedly done is another example of what happens when the government controls healthcare. The system lines up to serve the bureaucrat—when the bureaucrat has the power, the patient suffers.”
Cassidy’s opponent in the highly contested senate race, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has not commented publicly thus far on the VA scandal.